Breaking through a cover of mist and clouds, the small plane starts its descent into Bella Bella, revealing for the first time a sight almost too beautiful for words. Seemingly endless stretches of unspoiled forest extend along the waters of the Pacific Ocean, and distant mountaintops hint at the vast landscape of the Great Bear Rainforest.
Having grown up in Germany – where the thought of encountering a bear while strolling through the woods is the stuff of fairy tales – true wilderness has never been part of my reality. When the time came to find a summer placement as part of my studies in Conservation, my goal was clear: I wanted to experience the North American wilderness, and to do my part to advance conservation research and education benefitting these precious wild places and their peoples.
That being the case, I was thrilled when I was accepted as a summer intern at the Pacific Wild headquarters on Denny Island in Heiltsuk First Nation territory. Here, I am working with Great Bear LIVE, a program monitoring and researching coastal life throughout the Great Bear Rainforest. Great Bear LIVE uses cutting-edge, non-intrusive technology to monitor cetaceans and other marine life along the central coast. Underwater microphones, known as “hydrophones”, and remote video cameras are set up at key observation sites, transmitting audio and video feeds back to the Pacific Wild lab.
Two weeks into my internship, the jet-lag is gone and I am settled into my new routine. To some, early morning starts and sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end may not sound unique, but this isn’t your typical nine-to-five. My morning “commute” is a two minute stroll to a floating lab overlooking the blues and greens of the Great Bear Sea, and my “cubicle” a lounge chair in front of four massive screens of sea life.
Our day-to-day operations are dedicated to researching marine life to establish habitat protection standards for species and places threatened by energy development projects, climate change, and more, as well as to inform and support marine planning efforts of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department. Beyond research, the footage and recordings from Great Bear LIVE are used in a variety of public education efforts. These activities range from secondary and elementary school presentations and field trips, practicum placements for local youth, and additional work with the SEAS initiative. For people beyond the Central Coast, live feeds on Pacific Wild’s website give people a front seat to this wild place.
With every day, I am learning more and more about the Great Bear Rainforest, its natural history, and the work being done to combat the threats this unique place faces. At once investigative and applied, Great Bear LIVE is exactly the type of work an aspiring conservationist dreams of supporting.
Arne Loth is a summer intern with Pacific Wild and a Master’s student in Conservation at Bournemouth University. You can connect with Arne directly on Twitter at @ArneLoth.
Keep up with Great Bear LIVE. To receive email or text alerts when killer whales, seals, and other marine life are on the Great Bear LIVE feeds, click here.
Volunteer. Every year, Pacific Wild hosts a limited number of volunteers and interns at their headquarters in Denny Island. To learn about future volunteer and internship opportunities, check this page regularly.